Sunday, January 30, 2011

Mega Man Music -- MM4

Hey y'all.  Time for another Mega Man review.  This one is about Mega Man Four, one of my absolute favorites from when I was a kid.  Now, I've played (and seen played) all Mega Mans 1-5, but the ones I remember best are 1, 4, and 5.  Don't worry, I've seen playthroughs to remind myself of all of them, and I've been listening a lot to the music for the purposes of this blog.

In any case, Mega Man four makes me darn happy.  Some people say that MM4 is the point where the Mega Man series started going wrong, but I disagree (it's really MM5, but we'll get there next time).  Mega Man 4 is actually the most standardized Mega Man, in the sense that it has the most aspects of what a MM game is supposed to be.  Now, while MM 1-3 were great, they were still trying to figure out a lot of things.  MM 5-6 were very rushed, 7-8 were trying to figure out how to make MM work on the Super Nintendo, and 9 and 10 were essentially trying to connect to the past but still had to adjust for how modern gaming works.

This leaves Four as the one that had the best of everything, in a sense.  Rush and Proto Man were there, the Rush jet was fixed to not break the game, the graphics were beautiful by NES standards, the music rocked, the robot masters were creative, the plot included a new "baddie", and it was firmly established in the MM series that no matter what else happens, the guy behind it is always Wily. 

Rush marine was in this game also, and since Dive Man has a water stage, it's not completely useless (it's by far not necessary, but still).  They also throw in a couple of extra items like the wire and the balloon, which are really fun to play with them without being too useful that they make the game ridiculously easy.  Honestly, taking the time to play with them is so much fun.  Then you also get the charged shot, which enables you to do more damage with you regular weapon.  Fun stuff!

The plot is great.  It starts off with a magnificent intro, probably the best intro ever for the Mega Man games ever, and only 7, 9 and 10 really compare.  Oh wait, never mind, 8 had a wonderful anime intro.  You can say 4's is better if you prefer simple intros, I guess.  So the story goes that Dr. Cossack is acting up now, because Wily "died" in MM3.  In the end, Wily was really holding Cossack's daughter Kalinka hostage, and thanks to Proto Man, Mega Man discovers this and goes after the man responsible.  And then he rides back home on a train.  Awesome.

So let's move on to the music.  Some people didn't like the music in this game as much as the others, and I think that's mostly due to the darkness of the track.  Personally, I don't mind at all that the soundtrack is more melodramatic than usual, and it's probably for the best after the party-fest that MM3 was.  It's good to go in a new direction.  Really, there's no drop in quality from the other games, it's just different.  You can either like this or something else better. 

I talk a lot about making the music in the games into the soundtrack of a movie, and I feel 4's is definitely the most story-esque.  All of the music fits thematically, as if it really is trying to tell the story of a really great dark action movie with a melodramatic ending that's kinda depressing but mostly good.

Anyway, let's get to the actual music.  For starters, the intro is magnificent.  It starts off slow, just like the melodramatic 4 is.  Then it goes into sad to describe the robot wars, then into a pulsing beat where Mega Man is ready to charge in and kick butt.  Honestly, it's just like a dang movie.  This song might as well be the opening monologue of a movie.

The title music isn't any less hardcore.  It's all like "come on, time to fight and show those losers you mean business!".  Crap, the stage select screen is one of my favorites of all time.  It really pumps you up.  I might rank the stage select screens at some point, but for now we'll just go on.

Robot masters!

#8 Drill Man has a really fun theme.  It's methodical, fun without losing that dark edge.   Honestly, the bassline of this song is a song unto itself.  The only reason it doesn't rank higher is because of its competition.

#7 I really have to wonder who composed all of the MM4 songs.  Whoever did has a really great head for making 8 bit music sound like the environment and master the song has to portray.  Toad Man's theme sounds like water and rain and sewer.  Very good stuff.

#6 Dive Man isn't one of my favorite robot masters, but I really like his theme.  It's a lot of fun, very party without losing that sense of ocean.  I'm pretty sure it's the happiest theme in the game.  Yeah, even the fun themes in this one have an edge.  Relax with Dive Man!

#5 As a kid, I didn't like Skull Man's music.  To me it just sounded overplayed without really being that interesting.  I think my brother must have lost a lot when he was playing this level or something, because I was pretty sick of it.  However, as an adult I have suddenly stopped hating it.  I'm not really sure why, but now I acknowledge that it is good fun stuff.  Not the best, but a fun theme that's a good fit in Mega Man Classic.

#4 Bright Man's theme is one of the most popular themes in this game, and it really does deserve it.  The song feels so mechanical, both chirpy and dark at the same time.  Quintessential Mega Man.  In my mind it doesn't stand out as well as other MM songs, but it's the kind of theme you'll randomly think of later in the day and not be annoyed that you did.  Good stuff.

#3 Ring Man!  I love everything about him and his stage.  Except those darn green ring baddies.  They suck.  Anyway, this theme just catches in your head and makes you want to party.  It's spacey, weird, and a whole lot of fun.  It makes you not so full of hate when those darn green ring baddies take forever to kill.

#2 Dust Man's dang epic!  The intro alone is enough to propell this song in the rankings.  It's dramatic, forceful, and cold.  It sounds just like a robotic war should sound, as if the entire world is tearing apart.  Honestly, this song deserves some famous composer treatment.  This is what doom sounds like. 

#1 I'm going to be honest.  The themes I remember from a kid most from this game were Ring Man's and Dust Man's, but in coming back and listening to these, I have to say that Pharoah Man's does own pretty good.  It's the most fun track of the robot masters, both epic and adventurous.  That's why it wins.

The boss battle theme is friggin' epic!! Gah!!  It really gives that sense of running out of time.  Great stuff!  The weapon gain theme is good too.  It has a great beat.  Very simple game over theme in this game.  The password theme is sort of annoying.  They could have stood to make it longer and not so repetitive.

Ah, they have a nice little intro to Dr. Cossack's castle.  The theme for levels 1 and 2 rocks.  It's mysterious and even danceable.  You can't help but bob your head to it.  The real gem of the Cossack music is levels 3 and 4 though.  This is a seriously epic track, one comparable to the Wily theme for 1 and 2 in MM2.  It's a fan favorite and deserves to be.  Very intense and dramatic, really bringing you in for the action.

Now, after the good times that Cossack's castle was, we find out that Wily was behind it all.  Big surprise.  Hm, the Wily stage 1 and 2 theme here is good.  Kind of reminds me of Toad Man's stage.  It's pretty good.  Not as epic as Cossack.  Nor is 3 and 4's theme, but it's still great Mega Man fare, and it brings up the drama to remind you that you're about to go fight the big boss of the game. 

You really have to give them credit for the Wily boss theme.  It's marvelous, and probably the best Wily boss theme there is (unless I'm forgetting something).  After a really cute "win the game" theme, the depressing ending theme plays, showing Mega Man going home by riding atop a train.  Crap, I need to write lyrics to this's so sad and dramatic, remorseful and reminiscent.  It compares to Proto Man's theme in the level of depressing.  It sort of makes me wonder if this was supposed to be the last Mega Man Classic game, at least on the original Nintendo.  The remix of MM2's title theme after this bittersweet ending theme really seems to say it.  Or maybe I'm reading too much into it.

Link to the music!

So in any case, MM4 has a great soundtrack.  I personally feel that it's better than MM2's, but a lot of people like MM2's better.  Whichever.  It's not like either of them are crap.  In any case, this is a great example of what Mega Man is supposed to be, but rough points are ahead in the franchise.  Honestly, in certain ways the Classic franchise doesn't make a full recovery until MM9.  But I'll let you be the judge of that.  See you next time!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Mega Man Music -- MM3

Hey y'all.  I'm going to continue to review Mega Man music, and I'm a little frustrated right now because I just wrote out a whole bunch, but one errant keystroke deleted it all.  ARRRGH.

Anyways, Mega Man 3, in my opinion, has the best music out of all of them.  One was wonky, two was story-esque, but three was always about the party.  If these songs weren't in 8 bit tones, they would be the stuff of parties.  Dance the night away!  It's very fun and exciting music, remaining party until the Wily levels.  But we'll get to that later.

First, a comment on the game itself.  Capcom was starting to establish more of the things that would make the Mega Man universe what it would later become, though they hadn't quite got it right.  They did good things, like create the slide (which remained a staple of the games until 9), and turned items 1, 2, and 3 into a dog called Rush. Rush converted into different forms for Mega Man to use, like the coil for extra high jumps, the jet for flying, and the Rush marine for water.

However, there's a bit of a problem for gameplay.  The Rush marine is essentially useless, particularly because there are no water robot masters in this game and little opportunity for water at all.  The Rush jet is the opposite; you can make it go in any direction you want, thus rendering many obstacles worthless.  To make it worse, you only consume its energy when you're riding on the actual jet, so if you constantly jump it lasts longer.

Also, one of the things they do is make you replay harder versions of four of the robot master levels.  I don't mind this, but during each of these levels you have to fight two masters from MM2 again.  Well, technically it's robots with their powers, but still.  Come on, it's the third game in the series.  Ain't it a bit early to be nostalgic?

The plot also makes a change, and it's handled a bit badly.  First of all, there's this thing where Dr. Wily pretends to be a good guy again and ends up building these robot masters with Dr. Light, as well as a peacekeeping robot named Gamma.  However, none of this is in the actual game, and I still remain pretty darn  confused about what the plot was actually supposed to be, mostly because I didn't own the manual as a kid and the wikia page is confusing.  If you play the game without reading anything, for all you know they're all just more Wily robot masters.  That's just lazy...I mean, if this is the plot, it really should have some affect on how you play the game.

Also, this game introduces Proto Man, which is handled much better.  He shows up mysteriously in several levels, and only at the end of the game do we actually find out that he is Mega Man's older brother.  Since this actually appears in the game, it's very relevant and even us kids who bought games from used bookstores could know about it.

But hey, this game rocks out on music, gameplay and plot aside (admittedly, I really dig the graphic design for this one, better than 1 or 2).  You can argue for the other games and say they have better soundtracks, and because none of them suck it's just fine for you to do so.  I'm still gonna say three is the best, though.

Alright, let's go!

Okay, so this starts off with a very classic and fun title screen song, probably the best of the game series.  Holy crap is it fun and catchy.  It really gets you ready to play an exciting game.  The stage select screen is likewise fun, and after the intro, it kicks the mood into "alright, pick your destination!"

How I hate picking the order for these robot master songs!!!  They're all so awesome in this game.  Well, as usual, I'm picking them in order of quality, not my personal favorite.

Needle Man's theme is good and fun, but it's not quite as quirky as the others.  Still, it's fun stuff, and I can't decide if it makes me want to dance or relax.  It feels so dreamy and reminiscent and yet also happy....I just wish I could write decent lyrics for this.

Shadow Man.  To me, Shadow Man's theme suffers a bit in rankings because it becomes a bit cheesy at one point.  That just doesn't seem very ninja-ish to me.  But whatever.  It does have a great intro.  This is such a fun, great theme that you can't help but dance to it.  Party in ninja lava land!!!

Gemini I love your candy rave-colored glowy cave.  Seriously, my favorite level design other than Crystal Man's (in a later game), and it's a close competition.  As for the music, well heck, it's mysterious, wonky, and fun as mess.  I really, really want Gemini Man's to be higher on this list, but dang are the others good!

Spark Man's theme makes me happy.  It's like electric adventure party with just the right amount of intensity and excellent layering.  It matches the glowing of his level with perfection.  For some reason it makes me think of electric cowboys.

Not enough people really give Hard Man's theme the credit it deserves.  This is fun stuff.  It's strange, mechanical good times.  I guess his name throws a lot of people off, and as a robot master he really doesn't stand out in design or weapon.  But this is about music, not the robot master. 

Top Man may be the second lamest robot master in all of the Mega Man series, but his theme is rockin'.  The fast theme really fits in with his spinning nature.  High intensity.  I really wish someone on Dancing with the Stars or some other show on TV would use this song for something.

Magnet Man's music makes me think of innocent romance, like a sweet guy asking a girl to dance with him.  It's not as adventurous as a platformer might normally require, but what the crap ever.  This is just fun, soothing music that you can listen to over and over again as you play the game.

Snake Man's theme is Mega Man.  Period.  It is the thematic representation of what Mega Man classic should be: fun, a little weird, and enjoyable for a long time. can it get better than this?  Some people might feel this song is comparitively overplayed, but at the end of the day it is for a reason.  SNAKE MAN!!!!

The game over theme for this one is finally one that Capcom got right.  It's sad without being depressing.  In fact, it's actually a little funny.  It gets the job done. 

As for the boss battle theme, it's really good.  I'm not sure how it compares to other boss fights, because Capcom is always good at them, but it rocks.  Good times.  It goes without saying that MM3 has the best get a weapon music.  This is an actual song versus a little clip of noise that most of the "get a weapon" bits are.

Okay, now, up until this point the music is very party and fun, and only with Spark Man's theme do things get a little dangerous sounding.  Wily's castle themes start to change that.  The music for levels 1 and 2 start to get a little more suspicious, anticipating danger ahead.  It's not a terribly noticable theme, but it's fun to listen to. 

Levels 3 and 4 really kick it up a notch.  As I listen to this soundtrack, I think of a story where the lead is supposed to save the day, but in the end he goes to a techno party instead (the robot master themes).  This song openly mocks my made up protagonist, and here he fully realizes that by partying to all the techno he has let a bad guy out of his grip and the world will soon be doomed.  It's a weird plot idea in my head....don't ask.  I even made up some silly words to it.

Fighting bad guys
Is what I should have done
Fighting bad guys
Is what I didn't do
Techno party
(It was such a waste)
It will not save the world

Yeah....those need some work.  In any case, levels 5 and 6 further raise the level of absolute dread.  The song isn't as good as the previous, but the horror feel of it is just right.  The Wily boss fight song is great and hyper too, showing off in its coolness.

After a peppy winning bit, you get to hear the most depressing Mega Man song ever (unless you think MM4's ending is more so).  This is Proto Man's theme, and this is the part of the game where you find out that Proto Man is really Mega Man's lost brother (and in my demented little story it's the part where the lead was successful at stopping the baddie, but must reflect on all the things he lost because he didn't stop the baddie fast enough). 

The real gem of this song is that it's not just sad, but also sort of contented.  It's tragic without being emo.  It's very touching, and it's the balance of this sadness with the happier robot master themes that really makes this soundtrack (imo) the best. 

But of course they can't end the game with such a sad song.  They finish the credits with a song that's similar to Proto Man's theme in that it's both sad and content.  With PM, his theme relies more on being sad, while this one is more so content and happy, as if Mega Man is looking forward to a future despite all he's been through.

Listen here:

So yeah, that's MM3, one of the best MM Classic games ever.  It wins the best music award.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Nitpickery -- The King's Speech

Hey y'all.  I just saw The King's Speech last night, and people have been giving it good reviews so far.  It doesn't really deserve them.  I mean, it doesn't suck, it's just not something I can really get into.

Okay, so this movie is about King George the sixth, who had a devastating speech impediment but had to have it fixed because his father was getting old and his elder brother had questionable practices in love, making him less prepared for the throne.  In comes speech therapist Lionel Logue, the "unorthodox" guy that will help Bertie (that's George's nickname) talk right again.  I bet you ten bucks that you could write the ending of this movie.

Now, I'm not one of those people that's like "oh, this is a history movie so it's automatically boring". I love history.  Thing is, this just feels so much like a simplified, over-emo dramatization of history. It'd be one thing if they went more "Braveheart" with it, i.e. the non-reality that Hollywood adds makes it interesting, but here it's not really dramatic at all.  It illustrates a very bland Hollywood stereotype, i.e. the non-reality Hollywood adds makes it boring. 

King's Speech felt a lot like the movie Invincible (and I'm sure other movies of the type), because it is a story of personal achievement.  The thing that made Invincible a bad movie of this kind was that it was bland.  Nobody really felt that interesting or did anything besides emphasize the themes they were trying to get across.

Right off I'll go ahead and say that The King's Speech is better than Invincible.  The people are more lively and say more interesting things.  And they aren't mumbling all the time either.  Yet, all the same, they're not doing anything out of place.  They're doing exactly what you expect their stereotype to do.  You've got the uneasy, emo, and mistrusting protagonist, the "unorthodox" guy that helps him, the supportive wife, the wussy Christian dude, and so on.  It has all the liberal stereotypes that you would expect in a Hollywood production these days.  Ho-hum.

Let me not talk all trash about this movie.  The guy that played George was very skilled, and early on he tells a story to his girls that's absolutely funny and ends up being sort of symbolic of the end of the film.

Who I really enjoyed was Helena Bonham Carter.  I was sort of dreading seeing this movie, but my boyfriend wanted to see it.  Seeing Carter's name on the poster made me much happier, because I trust her as an actress.  Y'know, there are those actors who you see that make you want to not watch a movie, and there are those that make you want to.  Helena Bonham Carter did not disappoint.  She was the real gem of this movie, and I enjoyed seeing her go on as a duchess and then Queen of England.  In many ways her character was also a stereotype, but she was basically the only actor that made me suspend my disbelief and enjoy the story as it was told (yes, that applies to historical movies too).

Also, I really like how this movie explains the elder brother David's affairs and how this moral failure really messed him up for the throne.  Maybe they didn't do this intentionally, but it still shows.  I sort of wish they had made it less obvious that Bertie was going to take the throne at the beginning of the movie (like how 127 Hours did with avoiding the ending we all know happened to the protagonist), but otherwise David was handled a lot better than I expected.

Another problem with the movie is that they really should have shown more of his love interest.  I think her name was Wallace Simpson. They have people talking about how bad she is, but we really only get to see her for like, fifteen seconds of direct screentime.  They skillfully portray her as controlling of David, but other than that it's mostly people bashing her.

This flaw is a telling one of the movie: tell and not show.  In many places they just talk instead of really showing how bad or otherwise intense things are.  Some of those places are: Simpson's history, the resignation of the prime minister (what caused him to do that?  Was he really that bad a PM?), the rise of Hitler, what happened to George as a child, George's researching of Logue's background, and so on.  You don't have to go on and on about these in a movie, but this movie is far too contained for being about a king of a politically important country.

You need to show a little more to give the audience a sense that this king has huge influence over the world as it is, or that he's at least concerned about it.  It's fine to show someone overcoming a problem, but come on, this is the friggin' King o' England.  The world is bigger than Downing Street. How about showing the internationality of this character?  If we were dealing with a private person it would be one thing, but George's influence makes it completely another.  Come on, show more newsreels, show David reacting to Hitler and feeling inadequate, show the Brits trying to keep their lives together, show something that makes this movie dang unique!  I'll give them credit for comparing George's and Hitler's oratory skills, but the movie needed far more of that type of thing.

Maybe this next problem is a personal one, but I felt it was dreary seeing how self-absorbed George was portrayed.  In my head I compared this movie to The Stone of Destiny, a movie that came out some years ago about Scottish college students who retook the Stone of Scone from the British as a symbol of Scotland's independence from the British throne.  While this movie wasn't big in the box office, it was very comparable to The King's Speech in certain ways.  It was a historical drama that stayed fairly close to reality.

The Stone of Destiny succeeds where The King's Speech fails in creating an inspiring movie.  First of all, it's just plain awesome to steal back an unrightfully held historic item, far more interesting than just a guy dealing with a problem (though the second would have been more interesting if they had remembered to show that this was indeed the King of England who had to deal with Hitler).  Secondly in TSD, you get to see brash college kids going into Westminister Abbey, and you're on the edge of your seat with every obstacle and setback these kids go through trying not to get caught.  It's even funny.  As opposed to TKS, where you get to see a guy curse and do tongue twisters.  Huh.

Thirdly, TSD was respectful of honor, and believed in idealism and being bold for your country.  TKS was rude to Christians where it could get away with it, disrespectful to the office of the king, and just generally attacking decency.

And lastly, The King's Speech was very self-absorbed.  I know at the end that you're supposed to feel all "warm and gooey" because George was overcoming his impediment, but they forgot to include the sense of what was going on at the time.  England was getting into a dang war, one that would see a lot of death and risk the liberty of their country, but at the end the movie doesn't even attempt to show any of this.  This wasn't just a dramatic moment for George, but a dramatic moment for the entire country.  Unfortunately, the themes of this movie were self-focused, like George was doing it for himself and not for love of country or family, or even hate of Hitler.  That would be interesting.  No man is an island, least of all the king, and certainly not at a time like that.

Now, The Stone of Destiny was not a perfect movie, but I enjoy it because the kids aren't in it for themselves.  I mean sure, they do have personal reasons for going, but in the end they are doing it for Scotland.  They love their country and their people, and in this movie you feel the Scots rising up in joy as they find out that the Stone of Scone has indeed disappeared.  You feel the passion of the Scots.  When you can't feel a thing for British people in TKS, you know the movie has serious disconnect.  It doesn't even take a lot of time to show the feeling of a nation.  The Stone of Destiny showed only a few scenes portraying how the Scots felt before and after the Stone was taken, but you could totally feel that along with them.  The heart was there, not just selfishiness.

And that's the real sad part here.  A movie about stealing a stone is far more interesting and uplifting than a story about the king that had to learn to inspire his country and stay strong in the face of Hitler's regime.   Sure, we all know that the latter is more important, but when the movie fails to portray this then that movie has lost the spirit of the true story.  Come on, people.

Okay, so let's sum this up.

The King's Speech
Score: Four out of Ten
Best Actor: Helena Bonham Carter
Summary: At times funny, but far too contained and self-focused.
People who will enjoy this:
- Casual moviegoers
- People who like history
- People inspired by personal struggle
- People judgemental of Conservatives

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Mega Man Music -- MM2

Hey y'all.  Time for more Mega Man!

I really love all Mega Man music.  A lot of people say the second game had the best, and I personally disagree.  I'm not sure why.  Maybe I find the songs of the other games more cohesive to each other or something.  But whether or not MM2 is my first favorite is really beside the point; it's a good, solid soundtrack with a lot of fun stuff to listen to.  Definitely one of the better ones.

As far as the game itself goes, it's very good.  MM2 establishes permanently what the Mega Man games are stylewise, with its influences stretching out beyond the Classic series.  It extends the number of robot masters to eight, cleans up the graphics, eliminates the point system, and creates some classic enemies like tellies, sniper joes, and pipies.  MM1 was wonky in pretty much every way, and MM2 straightens things up.  It actually gives an intro and intro music to Mega Man, of which MM1 had none.

As far as the music goes, MM2 ends the notorious short looping and allows the music to extend further and take the time to really develop into the fun stuff it is.  The music becomes the storytelling of the game, which is highly necessary when your game has basically no on-screen plot.  Video games aren't obligated to be storytellers, but dang if the music doesn't try.

The intro explains the happenings for the first Mega Man game, and in fact actually uses the music from the ending of the first game for this intro.  It segways perfectly into the title screen music of this game, going from a mellow, tragic intro into an action packed title with Mega Man standing on a skyscraper with his hair blowing in the wind.  It's perfect.  Hey wait, why isn't this soundtrack my favorite again?

Anyways, this game definitely has my favorite password music ever.  It's short, repetitive, and squeaky, but it's awesome and I love it.  Yay!  It just makes me so happy.  The boss select screen music is good.  Sounds like a great intro into the danger that one will surely face on an adventure.

Okay, so here's the list of robot master themes from what I think are the worst to best written for this game.  Note that I didn't say my favorite, but most skilled.  Also note that "worst" only means compared to the other robot master themes.  All the themes in this game are awesome.  Each of them evokes the proper emotion and imagery related to their robot master.

#8  Notedly, I really enjoy Heat Man's music, and it evokes in my mind images of lava and gunfire, perfect for a fire-element baddie.  Trouble is, they went though a lot of work making the other songs on this soundtrack, and this one seems like its looping is still too short.  Still, it's funny when you play the level, mess up, die, and be mocked by the music as you try again.  Well, you have to deal with his disappearing block segment from hell with some sense of humor, or you'll get pissed off.  Go play Air Man first. 

#7 Crash Man's theme song is kind of weird.  It's a lot more goofy than the others, and this makes it really stick out.  It's completely enjoyable, though.  It gets a bit too goofy for me in parts, which is why it isn't higher in this list, but hey, it's still Mega Man music.  Party on.

#6 Air Man's theme is so much fun. A lot of the time I get "I Can't Defeat Air Man" stuck in my head and forget about this song, but this song is great game fare.  It's interesting enough to enjoy, and not too weird to distract or annoy as you play the level.

#5 As a kid, I never really cared too much for Wood Man's theme.  It's good video game stuff, but it didn't evoke too much for me.  As an adult I enjoy it, and I see why a lot of people like it the best.  It's dramatic adventure stuff.  I guess the problem is it just doesn't seem unique to me.  It just doesn't say "Wood Man".  All the same, it's a good song, and it reminds me of being a fighter pilot for some reason.

#4 Metal Man has some great music.  He's known for a lot of his stage hazards, like those drills that pop up through the floor and ceiling, and also his metal blade weapon.  Honestly, Metal Man is all around awesome.  The song gives a great, adventurous tone, and really deserves its higher spot on the list.

#3 Bubble Man's theme reminds me of Air Man's in the sense that it's more relaxing than otherwise.  It has a sense of calm without losing that nice drive and oceanic wonder.  It's such a deep song with lots of yummy layering.  Good stuff, good stuff.

#2 Flash Man's theme is a lot of people's favorite.  It's just a fun theme with mysterious tones. It wasn't my favorite, but y'know it's solid and a lot of fun.  The level just wouldn't be the same without it.  You get the sense of foreboding as you wander the glowy maze of mischief.

#1 That leaves Quick Man for the number one slot.  Yeah, this theme is weird.  It feels odd that the little "vrrreen" from the instant death lasers isn't playing along with this song.  It's the best because not only is it good, but it's also unique. 

Now, the Mega Man universe has always had good fight themes, and this is no exception.  However, MM2's just isn't as good as the ones from other games.  It's solid, but doesn't carry the strength of others.  Also, the game over music is too darn cheerful.  I mean heck, Mega Man just died here.  No need to laugh at him.

Next up is one of the greatest Mega Man songs ever.  Any true classic gamer recognises this as one of the best pieces of gamer music of all time.  That would be Wily levels one and two.  The theme played there is magnificent and has spawned many a set of person making up lyrics to it.  My favorite is the ridiculously fun Okkusenman, a Japanese song about missing the innocent past and how the years slipped away.  Seriously, you gotta hear it.


Notedly, some people don't like this theme, but it has been kinda overplayed in gamer circles.  That, however, doesn't take away from its genuine quality.

Wily levels three and four cut out all the fun.  It's like, "okay guys, you spent the last two levels partying, so now it's time to focus and kill the mad scientist".  It's very focused on this, and you won't be thinking about the theme that much at all.  Let's move on.

The Wily boss fight doesn't have a separate theme, but there's a short victory theme.  It's okay.  The real gem of the ending plays along with a melodramatic ending scene where Mega Man is walking home through petals, leaves, snow, and rain.  Once the sun comes up, Mega Man reaches his home in the country, leaving his helmet behind on the hill.  The song evokes drama as if Mega Man regrets war or is just tired and ready for peace.  This begins the trend of super melodramatic Mega Man endings, one that doesn't end even until the Zero series (or maybe ZX; I've never seen playthroughs of those).  It's a sad, touching song, but I miss having happy endings.

Fortunately, MM2 doesn't leave me hanging.  They pep it up for the credits with a very much underrated song.  It's fun, party, and leads right back into the title theme as it closes off.  Yay!  Rock on!

Oh hey, you can listen to the soundtrack here:

So yeah, MM2 has a great soundtrack.  Though I played this game (ie watched my brother play it) as a kid, it's the one out of the first five that I remember the least.  Looking back at it on youtube evokes fond memories, and I do start to remember certain things, like the spike blocks in Air Man's stage, the dragon in Wily 1, and the giant chicken thingies in Wood Man's.  It represents what Mega Man is supposed to be as a game, and it's fun as mess.  Some of the kinks as far as gameplay go aren't really worked out, but whatever.  Glitches in small doses only improve a game.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Actors and Flexibility

Hey Y'all.  Been long enough since I posted anything.  Think I'll put some stuff up.

I was thinking about actors and what makes a good one.  Admittedly, I don't like most of the more famous actresses.  Most of them irritate me in the fact that they tend to play such one-dimensional feminist stereotypes, and heaven help you if you portray women having flaws!  

So this makes it hard for me to pick out my favorite actresses.  So far, the only actress I like, in one sense,  is Queen Latifah, and this is more to do with her actual existence rather than her acting.  I like that she proves that a woman can be both bigger and attractive still.  She's a good actress, in what I've seen of her.  Probably a fun person in real life.

The actress I would list as the most skilled (there is a difference between the best and the favorite) is Sophie Marceau, with Mila Kunis getting an honorable mention.  Notedly, Sophie Marceau wins the contest because of her face.  With the twitch of an eye she can convey a ridiculous amount of emotion and give the audience an exact impression of what she is trying to portray.  Her performance in Braveheart aside its King Edward is absolutely astounding.  

Mila Kunis picks up the honorable mention.  I don't particularly care for her as an actress (I'm not going to see a movie just because she is in it), but I do have to admit that she's very skilled.  In That 70s Show, a show I rather despise, she portrays this really annoying chick.  Then I see her in Book of Eli, and it actually takes me a bit to recognise her because she has done such a good job of becoming the person that she portrays.  She doesn't drag any remnant of her 70s Show character into the movie, instead being exactly what the script requires.  I was ready to forgive her for being in That 70s Show, but then she ended up in Black Swan.  You can say that film is as good as you want, but the spiritual darkness of that movie will not permit me to go anywhere near it.  I don't even like talking about it.   So I will now stop.

So while I was thinking about Mila Kunis, I got to thinking about flexibility.  Now, to a certain extent, flexibility is good.  It means that you can take a lot of roles and get a lot of money as an actor.  It means that you can become various people and do an artful and unique job at each.  There is, however, a limit to this.

Okay, so let's start with Eastwood.  I put him on the less flexible side of the scale, because most of his characters tend to be darker, tougher, and have a more or less brutal view of life.  This same theme plays throughout all the movies that Eastwood directs, where life is more brutal and harsher than what most filmmakers would show.  He doesn't play silly people and he's definitely not into fantasy or the imaginative.  He does change from movie to movie, but in the end he is generally crusty and violent to varying degrees.  

However, this is a good thing.  Eastwood does gritty things, and there is an audience for the gritty.  You, as a moviegoer, will think "Oh, Clint Eastwood did this movie.  I like his other stuff, so I'll go see this too".  As someone hiring for a film, the director would go, "Ah, I need a gritty person to act in my movie.  Clint Eastwood does gritty, so I'll hire him".  So therefore a certain level of less flexibility is very good in that people more or less know what elements to expect.

Johnny Depp, on the other hand, is far too flexible.  He's very good at being weird and doing more sarcastic roles, friendly roles, stiff roles, sad ones...etc.  He even said in one interview that he likes hiding under makeup and masks.  And that's the real trouble with Depp.  He doesn't have any concrete identity as an actor.  I can't point to him and say he's anything, other than weird and in some sense very shy.  Seeing his name on a movie poster means pretty much nothing because you never really know what to expect from the guy.  I'm not saying he sucks or anything, I'm just saying that his acting suffers from a lack of himself, a lack of his heart.  There really should be a movie about Johnny Depp, just him being himself.  That might scare the crap out of him, but everyone would like it.  

Yeah, while Mila Kunis is more flexible than Clint Eastwood, she's still good to go.  She's flexible, and yet she's still good at holding down the whole worldliness vs naiivety theme, which right at this point is her actress identity.  It might change as she gets older, as it does for some, but for now, yeah.

Oh, so here's the actors I like.
Favorites: John Wayne, John Rhys Davies
Most skilled: Denzel Washington